An original short story based on a theme provided by an originator of the blog: http://gregnabokov.blogspot.com.au
Theme: Full Screen
Time limit to write: 3 weeks
A short story By Penny Jelly
He had gone to the gym two days before and struggles with stairs and getting up and down from various heights – the couch to the kitchen is an Odyssey in itself when DOMA is gripping your life.
Albert gives up on trying to use his own energy by flexing his muscles and instead propels himself off of walls almost throwing himself into bed, shrugging off his jeans like an inarticulate snake shedding it’s winter apparel.
“All the rage, these skinny jeans.” he hisses. “I have all the rage.”
He washes his face for what seems like the hundred and nineteenth time this year. If only he had a system in which he counted things relentlessly. However – he had given up that OCD thing a few years ago. 794 days to be precise. Bearing in mind it wasn’t a leap year in that time…
That’s the thing. He is constantly living in time. It seems like an easy enough phrase to dole out, but it actually has meaning.
Common Albert has a common affliction (that’s too harsh, it’s more a way or an addiction) of not being able to differentiate between the hours. He looks at the clock and sees the time. Nothing weird about that – but it etches itself into his brain. He literally couldn’t tell you what the time was about 10 minutes after that. He knows that time has passed – but in his brain – he still sees the red digital numbers sketching out the concept that it is 7:34am blink blink blink.
This is perhaps why he hates his job so much. He fears going into work and his addiction and affliction works over time… it keeps him back. Literally. Which in turn throws him forwards into the utter repulsion that he feels for his manager. She, (it matters little about her name) passively yet aggressively looks at her watch and moves her mouse with pursed lips. Rather, she moves the mouse with her hand whilst pursing her lips. It’s a funny thing about time and displacement.
But her constant looks of admonishment aren’t the reason he wants to quit. The conditions, the air conditioning, the lack of his favourite chocolate bar (Picnic) in the vending machine (seriously, why do they fill 4 out of the 25 spaces with Coke?, and the rest with cookies that nobody eats, prepackaged tuna meals that seem suspiciously unrefrigerated – and chocolate bars beginning only with the letter C? (Crunchie, Curly Wurly, Cherry ripe and Chockito do not a variety of snacks make)), let alone the so-called salary and last but certainly not least – the monotony of work.
Carriage return to Sunday.
He has things to do. Places to feel uncomfortable.
Albert feels juxtaposed against his life.
He entertains the idea that he could soon become one of those people he sees (when he’s taking a sickie to sort out his life) and let’s face it; despises. Have ALL of these people sitting in a café on a Thursday morning quit their job? Surely not. Surely not everyone has had enough of the agonizing repetition…? Let me rephrase. Surely not everyone has done something about being sick of the agonizing repetition.
“Repetition is so, samey” – are the letters thickly sprayed onto the red brick wall of the café he passes…
He tries his best to sidle up for coffee at the sunny side street café, feeling inadequate and uncool. His out of place Movember tache certainly hasn’t grown in and his ironic glasses are more just circa 1999, as he hasn’t bothered to replace them.
The neatly torn t-shirted barista greets him with “Hh” and an upward jerk of his chin. It’s more an expulsion of air and a twitch than a formal salutation, but Albert takes it as an offering, regardless.
“Hi there. I’d like a latte, takeaway – to go, please.”
“Sure thing brother. G. S. O or C?”
Albert tries to cover his confusion by pulling at a thread on his cardigan (also not ironic, but bright green none the less). “Um, GMO free, I guess…”
“No. G, S, O or C? Goat, Soy, Oat or Cow.”
“No skinny. Just GSO or C, brother.”
“What was the third one?”
“O. For oat.” Pause. “O.”
“Oh!” Albert has had enough with the conversation and concedes. “Yup – that’s, um, Oat-ay with me. Haha.”
The humour is lost on the lanky lad who begins to pull, pour and pat his way through the coffee making procedure.
Tip jar with witty homemade sign.
“What’s on for the day, brother?”
“Sorry. What?” Albert shifts, stalling.
“What’s your MO for the day, amigo?”
“Um, not much. Few things.” He thinks and then considers the option of revealing more. “I’m preparing myself for quitting my job” he says instantly regretting it.
“Oh, yeah man. You’re living full screen!” “Sorry?!”
Gurgle gurgle gurgle splutter wipe pour. “You’re totally living the dream!”
“Right – that’s what I thought you said. Yup – going to be living that dream, son…shine.”
Awkward. Awkward. Hopes no one will notice.
“Yeah! Loving it, man!” And with that the youngster holds out the coffee with one hand and makes a fist with the other.
Albert, understandably, doesn’t understand – so takes the coffee, resists the impulse to make the same fist and move his thumb up and down in a make shift ventriloquist’s doll, so instead pauses, grimaces politely and turns to leave. “Thanks. Um. Bye!” He thinks that’s a suitable end to the transaction.
“Wooh!” ‘says’ the barista… punching his abandoned fist into the air.
Albert sips, saunters and wonders whether this guy’s parents know he works in a coffee shop rather than a law firm. He guesses it’s about where you choose to put the emphasis. Barista vs barrister… there is a similar amount of bullshit associated with each job – and somewhere along the lines a literally poor, innocent person gets ripped off.
Everything has parallels. Everything is a metaphor. Everything is a facsimile of a simile.
He arrives at the stand up, nibbly so called luncheon, alone and lonely.
He should have been more specific with Dave as to what time he was getting there. Darn.
The only other friend that he knows at this shindig is Cathie.
Cathie is being mauled by her new fiancé, Jim.
Jim is a tool. Enough said.
Albert’d always liked Cathie, but Cathie could never get over the fact that they were only, just and barely good friends. In a way, Albert was lucky that he even had a friend like Cathie to call friend.
Jim ravaged her without surfacing for air leaving untold millilitres of slobber on her neck.
Albert necks the glass of red he had been handed in order try and keep down his utter abject distaste, I mean, lunch. I mean – finger food.
Dave has been Albert’s best friend of several years. Too many to count. That’s what people of their generation say – eluding to, but never committing to, the generation to which they belong.
Dave swoops into the room like he rents the place but knows it is up for lease soon enough. It doesn’t matter that he spills red wine on the tiles as he grapevines across the floor, as long as he looks cool whilst doing it. Cool is debatable – but he sure knows how to draw attention.
“What’s up A-dog?”
“My ears – at the awful approximation of your bad American accent” replies Albert. “I can’t believe you dragged me to this place – and have the moxie to turn up late”
“Moxie?! Now there’s a word you don’t usually hear outside of a short story…” Albert doesn’t flinch. Neither does Cathie. Jim… well. Dave continues.
“And that’s not all, I told Nadia that you were going to drop by at the hipster picnic later. Only it’s cumulous heavy, so the troupe will have to hip and shoulder it inside to the local locale in order to dodge the drops.”
“The rain. I assume you’re talking about the rain and going to their local pub.” Albert deciphers.
“Good. That’s sorted. Time for a chicken wing or two?” Dave leers in the direction of a waitress… “or some other part of the bird…”
Albert is distracted by another conversation nearby. The collar up, nope – collar down, no wait – collar midway (that’s cool) clutch (collective noun) of middle weight light weights talk about wine like it is one of their portfolio stock options.
“The nose of this particular varietal has a bouquet of native red bovine traversing the soil several years ago, literally tilling the land with their silhouetted impressions of hooves, don’t you agree (inhale, pause, but not really) – and that comes through the vines so tenderly cared for on this indigenous reserve…”
“Utter backwash.” remarks Albert. “What is it about the mis-fitting older generation” he says to no one in particular. “Right. I’m off.”
He turns to the now damp necked Cathie.
“Cathie, always a pleasure. Dave, good of you to turn up. Jim…?!”
And with that, Albert turns on his heel and leaves.
Dave calls out after him. “So, I’ll see you later, right?!”
Albert waves to him in a non-committal fashion. It’s all in the wrist.
The local locale.
Albert enters. He looks for Dave. Surprise surprise, Dave’s not there.
He heads to the bar and asks the bartender wearing a singlet, beanie and scarf for a pint of beer –quickly abandoning the upcoming charade of being asked a million more questions – he points to the closest beer on tap and mimes ‘big’. The bartender nods imperceptibly and pours the beer.
Albert doesn’t notice at first, but he is definitely out of place here. More so. But his clothes, shyness and stoop betray him, and he begins to blend in. He sees Nadia off in the distance and waves. She waves back and indicates that although she’d like to make her way over to where he is, she simply can’t as she is jammed into a conversation that she shouldn’t extricate herself from. Or rather, she just waves.
Nadia is pretty. But just a friend. Just another cliché in his life of momentary cliché crushes. But he likes her all the same. He has the sneaking suspicion that Dave has slept with all of the women that he fancies, and will probably ever fancy.
Best not prolong the agony of thinking about it and he gulps his beer.
He mentally gives Dave five minutes (must look at watch to confirm) before he leaves – in a huff and a cab. He doesn’t understand why he is compelled to make an appearance at these events – he is only so called friends with these people because of Dave, and it is always because of Dave that he ends up standing alone. But, this evening, he is not alone for long.
A girl approaches. She is gorgeous. Geeky glasses, gangly legs… could she be the one?!
He summons up the courage to talk, and talk to her directly.
“How are you?” he squeaks…
Albert pauses. “Sorry – what was that, I think I missed it?”
“I said: I am great thank you, how are you?” She pulls a face like he imagined she’d pull if she were talking to her father.
He thinks “Oh God she thinks I’m old enough to be her father. More than that – I’m as uncool as her father.” Abort abort… bad turn of phrase, you know what I mean.
“Good. I’m good.” he bleets. “Will you excuse me, please?”
Albert scampers off looking like he is searching for someone (where IS Dave?) but instead playfully acts himself out of the bar and onto the street.
“What is it about the youth of today?” he mumbles to himself.
“LOL, my friend – that’s all you gotta do. LOL”
Albert turns and sees Dave.
“Dave, man. Where’ve you been? I got stuck so called talking to this texty gen Y girl and she…”
“Yeah, sorry – I had to see a man about a dog.”
“Oh yeah? What kind of dog was it?” he bluffs.
Dave deadpans Albert. And waits.
Nothing. Albert says nothing.
Finally; “Dalmatian. It was a Dalmatian”.
“Awesome. Love those dogs. Well, I gotta go.” Albert steps firmly from the footpath into the gutter and prepares to leg it.
Dave calls out “Albert, c’mon. Coma back for one drink. What’s up?”
And then Albert turns, and in one massive breath – he releases all of his Sundays’ angst.
“You know what?! I’m sick of it. I’m sick of the whole thing. I’m sick of my stupid job, I’m sick of not being able to talk to people, I’m sick of people not being able to talk to me – or anyone anymore.”
“Whoa, Bertie, why don’t you say what you really think – Mr. Exposition?”
“Well, Dave (for emphasis) you did ask! I just get the feeling that if there was a narrator to my life that he/she would be more interesting than the things I say, do or think!”
“Don’t count on it – they probably don’t know half the shite you know about grammar…” says Dave trying to be helpful.
“I just want my life. Not living the dream, not GR8, not practiced extemporaneous-ness – just… life. And what does that even mean: Full screen…?” Dave once again tries to be helpful – but shrugging just doesn’t seem to do it.
Albert continues, agitated, but in a very timely fashion concludes with “I shift. I option. I cntrl, alt delete. But for now, I just want to ESC …”
Apple Q. He quits.
Full Screen © Penny Jelly 2011